Since the internet expanded beyond the narrow confines of the military and a few educational institutions and became a more general phenomenon, there has been concern about the internet haves and have-nots. There has been talk about the digital divide — meaning those who already have greater resources will get further ahead by virtue of internet access, leaving those without resources and access even more behind and in the dust. Well, is that about to change?
In a recent Senate committee hearing, SpaceX explained plans for building a global internet network. The foundation of the plan is the deployment of in excess of 4,000 satellites into orbit. And this is not just idle talk by SpaceX. Indeed, the company completed an application to the FCC in November and reportedly is motivated to proceed with its plan, according to an article by Futurism.com.
Yes, many people around the world already are connected to the internet — more than 3.77 billion people. But we have a long way to go, as approximately 3 billion people still do not have internet access, as set forth in the article.
To add more detail with respect to the plan for global connectivity, SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company, filed an application with the FCC to create a high-speed, global internet network by launching as many as 4,425 satellites — more than all satellites presently in orbit. SpaceX would like to launch the satellites between 2019 and 2024; they would be launched into space in batches using the company’s own Falcon 9 rockets.
SpaceX certainly is ambitious and Musk is a known innovator. We shall see what happens next with this plan.
Meanwhile, as the article points out, SpaceX is not the only company interested in increasing global internet service. Facebook reportedly is implementing tremendous, solar-powered drones to expand internet access to otherwise unreachable parts of Earth. And AT&T seeks to send WiFi via existing power lines.
We may be in the brink of substantially closing the digital divide. Given that so much of global activities now take place online, it is important to ensure internet access for all who are interested.
Eric Sinrod (@EricSinrod on Twitter) is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP, where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. You can read his professional biography here. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod’s columns, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe in the Subject line. This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s law firm or its individual partners.